Friday, 6 December 2019

Fishy Business

Updated: December 13, 2014 9:15 am

NOW, if the Indian Supreme Court’s differentiation between India and Bharat is “nominal”, the American Supreme Court recently had to contend with the complexity involved in the exact measurement—down to inches—between the legal and the illegal. It happened like this: After the Enron scandal of 2002 the US Congress had passed a law in 2011 banning document-shredding on the ground that it was destruction of evidence, punishable with 20 years in jail. This law had big corporate fraud as its target, not small fish, but now small fish actually became its target. For the other day a fisherman was found guilty of catching a type of fish called Grouper that was an inch or two shorter than the legal limit of 20 inches. When he was ordered to bring the fish ashore for evidence against him, what did he do? He threw the fish back into the sea. A case followed. The government prosecutor argued that when the law condemns anyone who “knowingly….destroys….any document or tangible object” to impede investigation, “tangible objects” include fish ! So the fisherman be sent to jail for 20 years. Was he? He wasn’t. The judge asked, “What kind of a mad prosecutor would try to send this guy up for 20 years?” What did this mean? It meant that while generally the law is an ass, at times it can be a mad ass. It also meant while generally the law is asinine, at times it can also be fishy.

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